Get to Know a Volunteer: C.
C. provides volunteer administrative support at Circle of Care. She connects with our clients over the phone and asks survey questions, helping us gain insight on the quality of our services and programs. She started off volunteering with us 2016, as a friendly visitor, but switched to provide administrative support in 2018.
What inspired you to begin volunteering for Circle of Care?
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I spent time at the hospital for treatment, and while I was there, I made connections with other immigrants from China. They only spoke Mandarin or Cantonese and were confused and afraid during their time at the hospital. They didn’t fully understand why they were there, or what breast cancer was. As I spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese, I was able to speak with them, helping them get through their treatments and making them feel more comfortable.
That feeling of being there for others and providing support really resonated with me. I initially wanted to start volunteering for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. Unfortunately, they didn’t accept me as a volunteer. But during my time at the hospital, I became familiar with Circle of Care because I saw the iRIDE services and thought that was such a good service to offer.
I applied to volunteer at Circle of Care, and was accepted to become a Friendly Visiting volunteer in 2016.
Has volunteering changed for you since the start of COVID-19 & what impact did the pandemic have on your volunteering experience?
In 2018, I switched to administrative support and in that role, I have always worked over the phone, albeit from the office. When the pandemic started, Circle of Care pressed pause on all its volunteer programs – including administrative support. So I wasn’t able to volunteer for a few months. But, they soon welcomed back their volunteers, and I started volunteering remotely and called clients from home.
Has volunteering changed your outlook in any way?
While I was a friendly visitor, I visited an older woman in her 90s. I helped her with grocery shopping and spent some time with her at her home afterwards. She was a very nice and kind-spirited woman. When I came over, she insisted on grabbing some tea and cookies off a very high shelf. She refused my help to grab the cookies, and slowly climbed a step stool to grab them. She said ‘you helped me with my groceries. I am very appreciative, and welcome you to have tea and cookies with me’.
This became a regular thing. It became more than a volunteering position; she was a friend. ‘Volunteering’ makes it seem like work, but it’s not. The experience and feeling you get from volunteering — from connections and supporting others— is far from work.
After a few months, my friendly visiting client passed away. I was very sad. I knew I wanted to continue volunteering, but experiencing the death of my client—my friend, really— had such an impact on me. I decided to help others by moving myself to support Circle of Care’s administrative team, and connect with clients over the phone to receive feedback on the services and programs they receive.
What’s one positive impactful moment at Circle of Care you remember?
When I call clients to get their feedback on the services, sometimes we receive some negative feedback from our clients, but most of the time we receive such positive reviews. One client said “You don’t need to do a survey. My Personal Support Workers are very good; they’re so much better than expected.” That’s the happiest part of my job, whenever I receive such positive feedback and to see how impactful the organization is overall. It’s very encouraging.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who is thinking of volunteering?
They should at least try it. Everybody is useful, and everybody needs help. There are no requirements needed. If anyone is at home doing nothing and feel useless – they shouldn’t. Your compassion and kindness is always welcomed in any volunteering position – especially for older adults.